Yet, as Guthkelch reflected on the four decades of studies and research projects premised on his medical theory and reviewed criminal prosecutions of shaken baby syndrome that resulted in long prison sentences, he was struck by the obviously inadequate inquiries doctors were making into other possible causes for the child's injuries. 

Turns out, a syndrome thought to be such a valuable tool when it was first diagnosed has been the centerpiece of a debate between legal volunteers from "innocence" projects who advocate for caregivers accused of abuse and child-welfare workers who speak for the suspected victims, and it's playing out in the healthcare community, in courtrooms, and in the arena of social justice.

In reviewing the case of an Arizona man who has spent 10 years in prison for shaking to death his girlfriend's 4-month-old son, Guthkelch told NPR during a 2011 interview that he "wouldn't hang a dead cat on the evidence of shaking as presented."

Ramos displays Kimberly's favorite stuffed toy.
Jamie Peachey
Ramos displays Kimberly's favorite stuffed toy.
Mauricio Jr.'s favorite toy firetruck.
Jamie Peachey
Mauricio Jr.'s favorite toy firetruck.

In interviews and his end-of-career musings, Guthkelch reiterates that he isn't raising questions now to excuse child abuse or authorities' failure to investigate it. But his present-day doubts about the legal use of shaken baby syndrome are supported by a growing body of literature published in medical and legal journals that points to alternative causes — falls, diseases, and infections — that mimic the trio of symptoms found in non-accidental head trauma. 

At the very least, they create reasonable doubt about a diagnosis at the center of a public firestorm. But "reasonable doubt" is only a legal standard in criminal cases — not in family court, where Ramos and Perez's fate was decided. 

In that court, there only needed to be "clear and convincing" evidence.

"For the first time, a court examining the foundation of SBS concluded that it has become sufficiently eroded that a new jury probably would have a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt," Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, wrote regarding the case of Wisconsin woman convicted for the death of a 7-month-old girl she was babysitting. (See sidebar at

Tuerkheimer authored "The Next Innocent Project: Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Criminal Courts," published in 2009 in the Washington University Law Review

In 2001, John Plunkett, a retired forensic pathologist in Minnesota, documented 19 cases in which children suffered fatal head injuries as a result of short-distance falls — some falling from about the same distance as Mauricio Jr. fell. 

Plunkett tells New Times he became involved in studying children's deaths from short falls because, 15 years earlier, he worked such a case. One physician told him a child's death couldn't have been caused by a short fall because short falls can't kill. 

"I said, 'Wait a minute. What's that based on?' Plunkett recalls. "And they said, 'Well, we never see it.' And it was obvious immediately that that is circular argument."

He says his views remain unchanged since his paper was published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. He was one of the first to question SBS; today, he's hardly alone.

"We're just going to keep on destroying families until somebody wakes up?" asks Plunkett, who weighed in as an expert witness on behalf of Ramos and Perez at a court hearing to sever their parental rights. 

He speculates that pediatricians and child-welfare providers are resistant to change because they've been "saying something for 20 or 30 years that has resulted in untold numbers of families . . . destroyed, finances and reputations that have been destroyed, and people in prison."

He continues: "And all of a sudden, you're shown that what you believe to be true is not and has resulted in all of this mischief. I think the natural human response is to circle the wagons, to try to protect your prior belief."

Plunkett says that instead of "reappraising" what they believe, doctors "get busy in trying to disprove what someone else says."

Not everyone agrees with Plunkett.

Gregory Schmunk, chief medical examiner in Polk County, Iowa, a forensic pathologist, and chairman of the National Association of Medical Examiners, believes that doubt regarding diagnosis of non-accidental head trauma has been created by self-proclaimed medical experts who testify for defense attorneys.

They "aren't looking at scientific evidence. Instead, they're looking at case reports — isolated incidents — and drawing inappropriate conclusions," Schmunk says.  

Schmunk tells New Times that Plunkett's article on deaths from short-distance falls was severely criticized and that in every one of those cases he cited, there were "other things involved . . . that made it fairly clear" the children were victims of abuse. 

He says there also are other articles out there, some that contain "gross miscalculations" but get published in journals that are not peer-reviewed and then end up getting cited in courts. 

Sandeep Narang, a Houston doctor who specializes in child abuse pediatrics, noted in an analysis on abusive head trauma published in the Houston Journal for Health Law and Policy in 2011, that there are more than "700 peer-reviewed clinical medical articles, comprising thousands of pages of medical literature, published by over 1,000 different medical authors, from at least 28 different countries" that support the scientific theory behind abusive head trauma.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

It blows my mind that more people aren't bothered by this kind of shit. The apathy could only be worse if it were due (even in part) to the citizenship status of the parents featured in this article. Maybe a Kardashian angle should be worked in to every hard hitting news story.        

Cozz topcommenter

Fucking CPS, what a bunch of duchebags they are and the family courts are not any better.

None of them care about the truth, only a conviction is all that mattered in this case.

CPS needs some serious house cleaning.


All evidence points to innocence. Could what we are reading is a person in the clutches of the prison industrial complex? Google it and learn more why seemingly innocent people are sent to prison. Some judges receive as much as $30,000 for a single conviction. The US has a 99 percent prosecution rate while other countries trail far behind. Why?


I am curious as to what ethnic groups the children who taken away for good were.  Is there a breakdown of each group?


Nice reporting and writing.  This is exactly what I'd love to see more of from PNT


For years CPS has be rightly criticized for not taking appropriate steps to protect childen and they have ended up Dead; so now maybe they are going overboard to protect themselves. There seems to be a very thin line between abuse and accidents; and it looks like the Trauma doctors are becoming the Judge and the Jury, in determining the difference between the two according to the evidence of their examinations.  Sometimes things ain't what the seem; and the parents end up on the short end of the stick. Could this be one of those times?


This is OUTRAGEOUS...!! Restore the children to their parents..!! ASAP ....

In the history of SBS, thousands of cases around the world, NOBODY HAS EVER WITNESSED A BABY BEING SHAKEN TO DEATH, or even to the point where one of the Triad of symptoms has ever been demonstrated. 

Prosecutors love this, you don't need a smoking gun, witness or any evidence other than a doctor willing to state that the Triad of symptoms was present. No bruise, fracture, abrasion, neck injury from the head flopping around, no telltale thumb imprints on the baby's chest from gripping the child too firmly. How many children bounce around in Jolly Jumpers and how many die from this?

In hundreds of cases now where nannycams have caught people shaking babies, not one of these infants ever demonstrated even one of the triad of symptoms! How can this myth have survived for so long? In fact many babies developed the symptoms shortly (10 days or so) after vaccination. The Dr who originally came up with the theory no longer stands by it and testifies FOR parents. 

What do we need for science to catch up? do we need MythBusters or Hollywood to finally dispel the myth of SBS? Dr John Lloyd and others have shown conclusively that the Triad can only be demonstrated by short falls and there will be other injuries. 

The shame of this is not just the innocent grieving parents being prosecuted but also for the babies who have died. If we put this myth to bed we could find a cause and cure for SIDS. Shame on doctors who still cling to this, I hope this couple sue. Well done to Police for a job well done.


I can never understand people who hit or slap their children.  Our only child was raised without EVER being slapped, hit or beaten in any way.  Both of us agreed this was the only way to raise a child.  She is a happy and wonderful adult now and says she had the BEST CHILDHOOD of anyone she ever met.


"Amongst clinical practitioners, from pediatricians to radiologists, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the World Health Organization, the validity of AHT as a medical diagnosis is unquestioned." 

Once again, we are met with the straw man argument.  

No one is questioning whether or not head trauma exists.  What is being questioned, is shaken baby syndrome, which is a subset of abusive head trauma.  More specifically, can a doctor can make a diagnosis of shaking based merely on the constellation of injuries, i.e. the triad?  While nearly all active physicians on both sides of this debate will say that the triad alone is never sufficient, we seem to find case, after case, after case, where people are sentenced to prison, often for decades, based on this medical finding alone.  Worse, clear signs of infection and other diseases and conditions are commonly ignored and/or considered non-contributory.


Commendations, Monica Alonzo and New Times editors, for your thoughtful treatment of a difficult subject.

Incredible as it seems if you haven't seen it yourself, doctors---and now social workers---trained in a flawed model of infant head injury have been over-diagnosing inflicted pediatric head trauma for three decades and counting. While the pattern of intracranial bleeding and swelling that defines shaken baby syndrome can result from abuse, it can also reflect any of a long and growing list of legitimate medical conditions, including accidental injury. I am grateful to the handful of brave doctors and alert journalists who are bringing light to this dark arena.

For the story of one family torn apart when their son's genetic disorder was misdiagnosed as a shaking injury, please see


Who cares? illegals are illegal. Look how much money they have cost US taxpayers already.

ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Arizona is years behind the nation in their justice system which is controlled by prosecutors who  do not believe anyone is innocent. Driven by "presumed guilty".


Posted 2/6/2008 5:52 PM By Morry Gash, APAudrey Edmunds, 46, pictured in a minimum-security prison, has been freed by a judge in a shaken-baby syndrome case. New research may support her innocence.

By Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press WriterMADISON, Wis. — A former child care provider sent to prison more than a decade ago in the fatal shaking of a baby was freed Wednesday, six days after an appeals court ruled the latest research into shaken baby syndrome might prove her innocence.

Audrey Edmunds, 46, walked out of a minimum security prison in Waupun and plans to move to the Minneapolis area to be near her three adolescent daughters, her lawyer said.

Friends who have long insisted Edmunds was innocent said they were thrilled by her release — even though she still might face another trial or an appeal that could send her back.

"I'm overjoyed," said Patti Larson, a former neighbor who used to take walks with Edmunds every morning. "She's finally getting out of there."

Edmunds' release came after an appeals court overturned her 1996 conviction and ordered a new trial. The court said new research into shaken baby syndrome presents alternate theories on what happened to 7-month-old Natalie Beard after she was dropped off at Edmunds' in-home day care in Waunakee.

At the trial, Edmunds testified the baby was in good health when dropped off on Oct. 16, 1995. Edmunds said Natalie quickly became fussy and she left her in a bedroom in a car seat with a propped bottle after unsuccessfully trying to console her.

She said she later heard the baby stop crying and found her limp with liquid coming out of her nose and mouth. She called 911 but the baby was pronounced dead hours later at a hospital.

A defense expert testified the baby was violently shaken but before she was dropped off at Edmunds' home, where a seizure resulted in her death. Edmunds' lawyers now say they have no way of knowing how the baby died but it could have been the result of a seizure, from choking on formula or by an infection.

In 1997, Edmunds was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Prosecutors were considering whether to appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, retry the case or drop it. They have contended the baby died as a result of violent shaking by Edmunds or shaking combined with impact that caused a fatal head injury.

The appeals court said a fierce debate has developed over whether babies can be killed by shaking alone, how long they can live with traumatic head injuries and whether symptoms similar to those associated with shaking can be caused by other factors.

The court said a jury should hear the competing arguments from experts and decide again whether Edmunds is guilty.

Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser granted Edmunds' release after a brief hearing and said she can remain free pending further appeal in the case or a new trial.

"Thank you very much," Edmunds told the judge via telephone from the prison in Waupun, 60 miles northeast of Madison."

918thor yes, I think we need crash test dummies for babies to disprove the shaken baby syndrome. The boy had a skull fracture. That sounds like a fall to me. You don't get that from being shaken.

canofworms Nobody has witnessed a baby being shaken to death?? Yes because most people don't want their murders being recorded. You're an IDIOT. Constant shaking of a baby, causing the head to snap back and forth is extremely harmful and studies have shown FATAL in some circumstances. Go ahead and shake YOUR baby, moron.

@naoma maybe you should read that article before posting. It has nothing to do with slapping or child abuse.


And how many times have social workers left children in the care of TOTALLY ABUSIVE parents, and who should have been THIS FARCE, of the complete opposite, and destroying a young family in the process.!!


While I will not resort to name calling since thats childish and extreme - not to mention has no place here or in any adult conversation - I will say that your comment was neither helpful or needed and completely ignorant. Judgements like THAT are part of the problem..


Thats why they have changed their theory from SBS to Abusive Head Trauma AND shaking. Their learning... They know that this theory cannot stand much longer. Does shaking hurt a baby? Most definitely. Is it the cause of many of these injuries? No way. This is destroying families who are already hurting and confused. How tragic.

@918thor  The research proves that the Triad can only be produced by short falls or the vaccination. In the video you see a child shaking himself and producing the same forces wrongly believed to produce shearing of the bridging veins. The SBS Brigade have a mannequin that claim miniscule forces cause the Triad. 

Mythbusters should build a jumper device and put their mannequin in it while Dr Lloyd and others measure the forces. Compare this to a baby bouncing themselves and I believe the myth of SBS would be BUSTED!

Dr Lloyd is an expert in Biomechanical studies, he has also raised concerns that football helmets protect the skull and not the brain. If SBS were possible the boxing would certainly produce the Triad as would most sports. He also has done some great work for the government with car crash safety. 

Having read many post mortems from these cases, it is despicable that a grieving parent can be accused on the flimsiest evidence. Lives are destroyed from this junk science and babies are dying of SIDS because many believe this myth of SBS. 

In Ireland for example, in a decade there were 21 cases of SBS. Only one resulted in a prosecution and in that case there was a skull fracture, bruises and broken bones, AND an admission of guilt. You can bet in the other 20 cases that children were wrongly removed from grieving parents. 

It's time to put the myth of SBS to the scrapheap of junk science.


@canofworms Lets see. You said most people don't want their murders recorded, but you seeming left out spouses that hide nanny cams to catch their spouse/nanny/babysitter abusing their children and this is well documented in the media. Wrongful convictions exists and documented court evidence corroborates this fact. You will not understand until someone you know is wrongfully convicted-possible you too. Google, "wrongful shaken baby convictions," read testimonies from actual doctors who say SBS was not diagnosed, yet family services are notified and prosecutors manufacture false and misleading statements to secure a conviction-and prison sentence. It happens every day. Read, read , read...

naoma @naoma   I am aware that the baby "fell off the bed."  I never said it was slapped nor hit -- just my assessment of how I raised my one child without any slapping or hitting.  I do not know how anyone can shake a baby.  


Wow. 1000 to 8000... Pretty large gap!

Phoenix Concert Tickets